September 30th, 2010
01:12 PM ET

'100 percent' chance for life on newly found planet?

An artist rendering shows the four inner planets of the Gliese 581 system and their host star.

Gliese 581g may be the new Earth.

A team of astronomers from the University of California and the Carnegie Institute of Washington say they've found a planet like ours, 20 light years (120 trillion miles) from Earth, where the basic conditions for life are good.

"The chances for life on this planet are 100 percent," Steven Vogt, a UC professor of astronomy and astrophysics says. "I have almost no doubt about it."

The planet is three times the size of Earth, but the gravity is similar.

Dr. Elizabeth Cunningham, planetarium astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, says the discovery is a huge deal.

"It could have liquid water on the surface," she said. "That's the first step to find life."

The Gliese 581 system's orbit compared to our own solar system. The planet labeled G is the one scientists believe could very likely support life.

There are hundreds of known extrasolar planets that have been discovered in the Milky Way, but this is the first that could support life.

Earthlings won't be traveling to Gliese 581g any time soon unfortunately. Scientists say a spaceship traveling close to the speed of light would take 20 years to make this journey.

But if we did - we'd find some other things familiar. The atmosphere and gravity are similar to Earth, and if you're from the polar regions, you'd definitely feel right at home. Scientists say the highest average temperature is about -12 degrees Celcius (10 Fahrenheit), but they point out that the planet doesn't have a night and day - one side continually faces the star and the other side faces the darkness of space. This means one side is blazing hot and the other freezing cold.

Gliese orbits a red dwarf star called Gliese 581. Cunningham says "it's a Goldilocks planet."

"It's not too hot, it's not too cold, it's just right" for water to form, Cunningham said.

The area is called the "Goldilocks zone."

Other planets near Gliese 581g have been discovered, but they are not habitable and are mainly comprised of gas. Gliese 581g, however, is a rocky planet.

It was discovered using the Keck telescope in Hawaii which has been observing the star Gliese 581 for 11 years.

"Keck's long-term observations of the wobble of nearby stars enabled the detection of this multi-planetary system," said Mario R. Perez, Keck program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington.

Astronomers are excited this new planet was discovered so fast and relatively close by.

"I'm surprised we found one so fast," Cunningham said. "The implication is either we were very lucky or these planets could be relatively common."

Gliese 581g is in the constellation of Libra. While Earth takes 365 days to orbit our star, the sun, Gliese 581g orbits its star in 37 days.

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Filed under: Science • Space
soundoff (1,327 Responses)
  1. joeah

    yeah joe. we can send sara pallin there

    September 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • gge

      I'd rather send Sarah Palin to the sun.

      September 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JustanObserver

    While I am intriqued and excited about the find, I would like to make two quick observations. (1) A awful lot has to happen just right for life to evolve so any prediction of life is very premature (2) there is nothing in the Bible that precludes life on other planets or in other universes, God made the Universe or Universes the way He decided to do so whether it be by Big Bang or otherwise. He puts in it what He wants and doesn't ask us for advice. But God's concern is salvation, the Universe is simply a temporary home for us humans and exist at his discretion.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • eel32

      You're an idiot. Keep sticking your head in the sand and pretending some almighty being is going to whisk you away to some magical land when you die. Fairy tales...

      September 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mary

    How can anyone say the chances of life are "100"%?
    Thats nonsense...

    September 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edible_Mineral

      Could just me a tiny amoeba, little microbes of animals or plants.. Life = life. doesn't have to be some big headed alien with a ray-gun. That said. you are correct. they should say 99.9%

      September 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jeffrey Root

    It would take 152 years to get there with a Saturn V without gravitational help but if we were to slingshot like Voyager did then we could reduce that time be a whole lot. Maybe cut it in half.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • gge

      it takes 6-8 months to get to mars with our current technology, and mars is only 20.8 light minutes from the sun, maybe 2 light minutes away from the earth.

      Gliese is 20 light years or so away.

      I dont think we'll make it there in 152 years. sorry 😦

      September 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey Wallbanger

      The fastest probe we have launched thus far in the Pluto New Horizons Express. Its trucking along at about 50,000 mph (considerably faster than a Saturn 5). a At that speed, it would take it about 280,000 years to get to Gliese 581g. Be sure to take along a bunch of movies to help pass the time.

      September 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jeffrey Root

      Your right. I did the math wrong. I was thinking light traveled at 186000 mph not mps. Derrr

      September 30, 2010 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George

    no night or day, what sort of planet is that??? God spoiled us too much when he made earth. .

    September 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Harvey Wallbanger

      That's assuming the planet's rotation is tidally locked to its star like the moon's rotation is locked to the earth. That may, or may not be true. It was though for several centuries that Mercury's rotation was tidally locked to the Sun, causing one side to always be in day and the other in night. It has been proven within the last 50 years that this is not true.

      However, it is not an unreasonable to believe there is a high probability the planet is tidally locked.

      September 30, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Anonymous

    We'll only be able to colonize a planet like that if we can find a way to develop light speed. also if there is no intelligent life on that planet, we can colonize it.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew

    DIBS!!!!

    September 30, 2010 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mixhalei

    We as flight attendants get so tired of doing the 10 hr flights from Us to Europe or even Asia... I don't see myself living there and doing a 40hr flight in this new planet from one side to the other if we were to live there heheh πŸ™‚

    September 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      Well it wouldn't be a 40 hour flight. With our current technology it would be a 620,000 year flight

      September 30, 2010 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. EarthIzMiHome

    Earth is mankind's home. There is only one race, the human race. We are all brothers and sisters and we can get along, if we really want to.
    There's no need for wars, hunger, or homelessness. It's evil men's doing that is robbing our planet's resources and raw materials.
    Just because a planet is blue and 'looks' like Earth – it is NOT Earth.

    One side of this planet 'newly discovered planet' - well it took all this time of our little minds to 'so-called' find it (it was always there) this newly discovered planet cannot sustain life.

    One side cold the other side hot.

    I don't think so.

    Why not work on the one that was given to us already; this Earth was made to sustain life and all we need is here. Water which is 80% of our body's material is on this planet alone. We bathe in water, drink water, cook in water, irrigate our crops in water, and even play in water.

    If mankind found a way to work toward humanity instead of blowing ourselves to bits, maybe we could get somewhere..

    September 30, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • gge

      Earth is mankind's home. There is only one race, the human race. We are all brothers and sisters and we can get along, if we really want to.

      (agree)

      There's no need for wars, hunger, or homelessness. It's evil men's doing that is robbing our planet's resources and raw materials.

      (agree)

      Just because a planet is blue and 'looks' like Earth – it is NOT Earth.

      (obviously)

      One side of this planet 'newly discovered planet' – well it took all this time of our little minds to 'so-called' find it (it was always there) this newly discovered planet cannot sustain life.

      (maybe not human life, but what makes you too sure it can't sustain life at all?)

      One side cold the other side hot.

      I don't think so.
      (just shows your limited understanding on the workings and development of life)

      Why not work on the one that was given to us already;
      ("Given" impies it was meant for us, evolution by natural selection clearly shows us that we adapted to the planets environment, not the other way around, but i'll assume you don't believe in that...)

      this Earth was made to sustain life and all we need is here. Water which is 80% of our body's material is on this planet alone.
      (Yes we need water, but no, water is not found "on this planet alone", space is made up mostly of hydrogen and carbon. which can easily be H20)

      We bathe in water, drink water, cook in water, irrigate our crops in water, and even play in water.
      (we also drown on water, use it for torture, God used it to sterilize the world except for Noah and his family(if you believe in that story that is))

      If mankind found a way to work toward humanity instead of blowing ourselves to bits, maybe we could get somewhere..
      (Yes, maybe to Gliese sooner.)

      September 30, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      gge, there is no Carbon in water. It's two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen. You seem pretty intelligent, so I'll assume that was just a mistake.

      October 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. glitchedgamer

    Very exciting discovery, but 100%? Really? Nothing is 100%. Still, I think it's a 99.99999999% chance.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sig

    Well I'm excited and all about this new extraordinary find. But the article states that it would take 20 years to explore this so-called second earth which we haven't the technology to do just yet. Until we get some star trek technology I find this article inconclusive. "BEAM me up scotty!"

    September 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Neil

    20 years travel at the speed of light... at this rate i'm sure we'll have the technology before i find a job.

    πŸ™‚

    September 30, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Teo

    ROAD TRIP!!!!!

    September 30, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Horvath

    @Glitch Water is needed...they don't know if water is there...they can't see the surface well enough to know anything...and that's at 99.99999 percent chance? We call this science? No observation, no tests, no anything, yet, so quick to put FAITH in this idea of there being life on this planet, let alone water, let alone anything else.

    September 30, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • gge

      They can tell the chemical make up of the planet by observing how the light from its star passes through the planets atmosphere. They have been observing it for quite some time now.

      Water is common in space. its just not in liquid form. Mostly as the elements Hydrogen and Carbon.

      Science requires reason, logic and evidence. Not Faith, but these scientists have been working on this method of observing exo planets for years and they do know more about the subject then us common web trolls. I think they know what they are talking about, i'm sure they are hoping for life, but im pretty sure they are not praying for it.

      September 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Doug

    We find a habitable planet and immediately make plans to try and visit it. I guess aliens do exist...WE are the aliens !

    September 30, 2010 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
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